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(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Reed Gusciora, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. and Ruben Ramos Jr. prohibiting the controversial practice of 'fracking' - or hydraulic fracturing - in New Jersey was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday. The bill (A-567) would permanently prohibit hydraulic fracturing activities in New Jersey.
"Fracking is a man-made disruption to the environment, many times on large-scale proportions," said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). "We've already seen a number of eco-casualties from this practice in surrounding states. It would be irresponsible to leave the door open for this practice to be pursued in New Jersey."
"We cannot expect to disrupt our environment and our ecosystems so drastically and not face any consequences," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "This is yet another reason why we need to continue our push towards renewable energy sources."
The sponsors noted that drilling connected with natural gas exploration along the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania caused concern.
The Marcellus Shale formation reaches beneath the southern tier of New York State, into Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, and touches the edge of northwestern New Jersey. It is one of the largest untapped fossil fuel reserves in the Western Hemisphere and there have been estimates for the area to yield as much as 20 times the current nationwide output of natural gas, but the gas is not easy to extract.
On June 5, 2010, hydraulic fracturing in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania caused an explosion and the release of many gallons of contaminated water and uncontrolled natural gas from the drill site.
"Fracking has the potential to unleash so many environmental and health safety concerns," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Allowing this practice could very well jeopardize public health, and that's a risk I don't think any of us are willing to take."
"The potential health problems and environmental impact associated with fracking are considerable and warrant prohibition," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "We cannot and should not play a game of chance with the health of our residents."
"The potential dangers of fracking present a serious threat to the environment and even more worrisome, a hazard to public health," Ramos (D-Hudson). "It would be reckless to allow this practice in New Jersey with the potential risks associated with it."
The legislature passed an identical bill in 2011, which was conditionally vetoed by Governor Christie to change the permanent ban on fracking to a 12-month moratorium while the Department of Environmental Protection conducts an investigation into whether hydraulic fracturing could have or is likely to have an adverse impact on air and water quality in this state.
The sponsors noted that the moratorium went into effect on January 17, 2012 and has now expired, prompting the need for the legislation approved today.
The measure was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.
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